Dinosaurs Skinny? Curved Bones Suggest Prehistoric Beasts Weighed Less Than Previously Thought

By: Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor Published: 11/21/2012 09:01 AM EST on LiveScienceThe fact that bones have curves has now thrown a curveball into calculations of dinosaur weight, researchers say. New estimates suggest dinosaurs may have been lighter than once thought, scientists explain. With the rare exceptions of fossilized scraps of skin, feathers, bristles and other relatively soft tissues, all that remains of most extinct creatures are their skeletons. One way that investigators seek to learn more about these lost animals is to deduce their weight from their bones. Traditionally, researchers would calculate estimates of dinosaur mass using a leg measurement such as the circumference of leg bones, understanding the relationship between body mass and this circumference in modern animals, "and scaling this up to the size of a dinosaur," said researcher Charlotte Brassey, a biomechanist at the University of Manchester in England. For the sake of simplicity, these calculations often model leg bones as columnar beams. However, "as soon as we introduce irregularities into their shape — the lumps, bumps and curves that are typical of animal bones — then they no longer behave like columns," Brassey told LiveScience. [Gallery: Stunning Illustrations of Dinosaurs] Dinosaur crash tests To overcome any errors that simplifying these curved organic structures might introduce, the scientists developed complex 3-D models of leg bones from eight modern animal species — the giraffe; the white-tailed eagle; the American flamingo; the European hedgehog; the common murre, a large bird; the rock hyrax, a guinea piglike animal; the Senegal bush baby, a type of monkey; and the European polecat, a weasel-like animal. When the researchers digitally crash-tested the bones by virtually loading stress on the ends of the bones, they found "the smallest change in the position or direction of loading induced significant amounts of bending," Brassey said. Read More…
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Dinosaurs Skinny? Curved Bones Suggest Prehistoric Beasts Weighed Less Than Previously Thought

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